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Agere rolls multimode WLAN chipset

Posted: 16 Apr 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:w-lan? interoperability? 802.11a? 802.11b? 802.11g?

Touting multimode WLAN interoperability, Agere Systems Inc. has announced a chipset that supports IEEE 802.11a, b, and g standards but features smaller die sizes and requires half the component count of current .11b solutions. The four-chipset was jointly developed with Infineon Technologies AG.

Agere holds 30 percent of the .11b market, and now surpasses Intersil Corp., Atheros Communications Inc., and Envara Inc. as a supplier of 802.11 multimode silicon. Envara tipped samples of a two-chip multi-mode 802.11a/b/g solution, the WiND502. Other leading vendors, notably Philips Semiconductors, have yet to weigh in with multimode chips. Philips' cellular RF sector marketing manager, Joseph Bousaba, said the company will avoid interoperability issues and wait until the .11g standard is finalized.

But Agere will not wait, said Tony Grewe, director of strategic marketing for Agere's client systems group. With the standard so near completion, the company plans to sample now and have production-ready versions for WiFi 802.11g interoperability tests, which are due to start in August.

Agere's chipset comprises the WL60040 MAC, the WL64040 baseband, the WL54040 dual-band transceiver and the WL54240 dual-band power amplifier. The MAC uses a 0.2m CMOS process and is similar to the company's 802.11b version, though a number of changes were necessary, said Grewe.

"We also went in and tightened up the performance around the controller and data shuffling to deal with the 54Mb speeds, and changed how the shoveling was done to use a more DMA-like process vs. the polling process that was done before," he said. The recently announced Cisco CCX extensions were included too. "Our customers were demanding it," Grewe said.

The baseband chip, built in a 0.135m CMOS process, features Agere's complementary code-keying block. The orthogonal frequency division multiplex (OFDM) block was implemented by Infineon and is based on work done for European DTV.

The radio is built in a 0.255m SiGe process. The fourth chip, a combined 2.45GHz/5GHz power amplifier, is also SiGe-based and comes with a variable-power mode. The chips operate off 3.3V and their combined power consumption ranges from 668mW in the 802.11b receive mode up to 1.412W in the 802.11a transmit mode.

"We believe it is the most integrated WLAN chipset to date," said Grewe.

The die size of the combo chip, he said, is 20 percent to 40 percent smaller than two competitors' 802.11b-only solutions, and contains half the components. Grewe put the total parts count needed at 100.

- Patrick Mannion

EE Times

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